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October 12, 2010

Half a million small firms get rate relief increase

More than half a million small firms will pay reduced business rate bills, following the extension of small business rate relief on 1 October, according to government statistics.

Announced in the emergency Budget earlier this year, small firms with rateable values of up to £12,000 will double their normal discount for a year, while those with rateable values of up to £6,000 will receive 100 per cent rate relief (rather than the 50 per cent they received previously).

According to government statistics, 530,000 small businesses will benefit from the increased small-business rate relief.

“This tax cut will help small local shops on high streets across England,” said the Department of Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) parliamentary under-secretary of state, Bob Neill. “Doubling their tax break for a year will give struggling firms a chance to get their finances on track, and help enterprising businesses to invest in their future and grow.”

A Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) spokeswoman, Sara Lee, welcomed the extension, but said that business rate relief should be automatic for eligible small firms. “The extended relief that was announced in the Budget will help small firms, but we want to see it become automatic as it is in Scotland and Wales,” she said.

“Businesses still have to apply for the rate relief – we want eligible small firms to get it automatically,” added Lee. “Lots of eligible firms are missing out as they don’t realise that they can benefit from it.”

A DCLG spokesman said: “It’s up to the billing authorities to inform the small businesses in their area that they will benefit from it. Small businesses which are eligible for rate relief and already signed up to the scheme will be contacted by their local authority and have their business rates adjusted to take into account the new relief.

“But those small firms which haven’t made themselves known to their local authority will need to do so to take advantage of the relief,” he added.

Rateable values are reviewed every five years as part of a revaluation exercise – the last revaluation took place on 1 April 2010. Local authorities use the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) assessment of a property’s rateable value to calculate business rate bills. To assess the rateable value, factors such as the size of the premises and how they are used are taken into account.